Canada courthouse gunman killed after policeman wounded

OTTAWA (AFP) - Police shot and killed an armed man at Canada's busiest courthouse on the outskirts of Toronto on Friday after he entered the secure building and shot and wounded an officer.

The unidentified shooter walked into the courthouse in Brampton, Ontario at about 11 am and "discharged a firearm," injuring the policeman, a special investigative unit said in a statement.

An exchange of fire is believed to have followed and the assailant was hit and later pronounced dead, the SIU said.

"The bad guy is dead," a policeman at the scene was quoted by the National Post as saying, while a police spokeswoman confirmed to public broadcaster CBC that "shots were fired within the courthouse." Staff Sergeant Dan Richardson of the Peel Regional Police told a press conference that the wounded officer was being treated in hospital and is in stable condition.

The officer is a "family man" and a veteran policeman with close to 30 years with the force, and was providing security for the courthouse at the time of the shooting, Richardson added.

Officials said the packed building was immediately locked down, and the injured officer was rushed to hospital after the shooting. The courthouse is situated 43 kilometers from downtown Toronto.

Canadian television showed images from a news helicopter of an ambulance escorted by several police cars speeding down a highway toward a local hospital, where a uniformed man was then taken on a stretcher into the emergency room.

Dozens of police cars, meanwhile, could be seen surrounding the courthouse.

Students who witnessed the shooting told Canadian media that as many as half a dozen shots rang out, with police later conducting a room-by-room search.

The modern five-storey courthouse, with 34 courtrooms for both the Ontario and Superior Courts of Justice, opened in 2000.

It includes metal detectors and x-ray machines at the entrance and was where several high profile criminal cases have been heard, including the trial of the so-called Toronto 18 group of Islamic extremists convicted of plotting in 2006 to bomb a stock exchange, government offices and a military base, as well as storm parliament and behead the prime minister.